Last Update: 8/22/2013 5:37:00 PM
Swarthmore boa constrictor safe after 10 days on the lam
SWARTHMORE - After a 10-day journey into the wilds of Swarthmore, an escaped snake has been found and returned safely to its owners.
Snakey, a 7-foot-long boa constrictor, escaped the yard of Dr. David Spiegel on Aug. 11 while the snake was soaking up some rays on the warm afternoon. He was found about 1:25 p.m. Wednesday in a yard in the 300 block of Vassar Avenue, less than a block away from the Spiegels' home.
"A homeowner called 911 and said she found a large snake in her yard," Swarthmore Police Chief Brian Craig said. "Officers responded with the fire department. We called the owner's office and his wife went over and picked it right up."
Nobody seemed to be alarmed by the discovery, least of all the snake.
"The person who called it in didn't seem to be too concerned," Craig said. "The snake appeared to be docile. The homeowner even let the snake crawl on her shoulders."
Prior to the arrival of Spiegel's wife to retrieve the animal, a police officer tried to corral the snake into a nearby garbage can. His attempts were unsuccessful.
Relieved to have Snakey back in his arms, Spiegel, a veterinarian and animal behavior specialist whose office is attached to his home in the 400 block of Yale Avenue, said his pet of 18 years appeared to be fine.
"He's a member of the family," Spiegel said. "He seems happy, at least as far as you can judge a snake."
He said the constrictor is domesticated from years of being handled by people and being around other traditional house pets, like dogs and cats. Spiegel assured the public at large that Snakey posed absolutely no threat to humans or other animals.
"He's never done anything aggressive in his life," Spiegel said, adding that Snakey only eats about once every six to eight weeks, and isn't due for another feeding for about a week. "We'll go out and get him a couple of rats then."
While Snakey and other boa constrictors are hunters, they also are vulnerable to any number of other animals or machines.
"They're predators, but they are also prey," Spiegel said. "I was mostly worried about cars and riding lawn mowers."
Snakey managed to stay hidden for so long because of his instinct to avoid other predators.
"They'll find places where they can't be seen," Spiegel said.
A previous escape attempt was foiled last year when a worker at Swarthmore College, almost a mile away from Spiegel's home, found the fugitive snake on campus.
While speaking with this reporter, Spiegel allowed Snakey to slither along his shoulders and arms, saying the serpent wouldn't be so active if he had been injured.
"If he had suffered any trauma, physically or emotionally, he would be coiled up tightly and wouldn't be darting his tongue out as much," Spiegel said.
The only sign of his ordeal was that Snakey weighed in at just over 12 pounds, about three pounds shy of his normal 15-pound heft. Spiegel surmised it was a result of his increased activity over the past 10 days.
The doctor is happy his beloved pet has been returned and hopeful their home life can get back on track.
"Everyone has gotten a little buzz from this," he said, referring to people walking dogs with flashlights and sticks at night, poking in the bushes in search of the snake. "It'll be nice to get back to normal."
Spiegel also expressed his sincere apologies for any trouble or fear Snakey's escape may have caused in the neighborhood, and said he was thankful for the many offers of assistance in finding him.
"I sure did get out there and look for him every chance I got," Spiegel said. "But I was very hesitant to go looking for him on anyone's property. ... If he had been missing for much longer, I was thinking about taking out a newspaper advertisement to try and get everyone in the neighborhood to look in their yards for him at the same time."
He said all it would take is for homeowners to check their bushes and under any patio furniture or sheds in their yards. He would have offered to look in the yards of anyone who was fearful of the snake.
Wednesday's discovery made that operation unnecessary. An animal like Snakey could have survived on the loose for months, Spiegel said. He explained that lower temperatures would be one of the only natural things that could have harmed him.
"He probably would have been fine until about November," Spiegel said.